On The Spectrum, On The Guest List: (ii) LAVO

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(See also: Part One and the Prologue)

“I found, however, that it takes considerable coordinated effort to mobilize people into what looks like a spontaneous waste of money...”

Hey do you wanna join us at the lavo nightclub tonight? We have an 11:30pm walk-in let me know brightens my lockscreen while I’m at work the following Thursday. I let it sit for hours, then come back with a lame tiebreaker: is bird poop really good luck?

The widespread belief of bird droppings as good luck is based on how uncommon it is to be pooped on by one. With countless birds in the sky and numerous people, getting pooped on by one is extremely unlikely—in fact, it is said to be even more unlikely than winning the lottery ticket, but the bird chose you.

The bird chose me. hey yeah sure i can make it! I scroll up, past the previous Thursday’s coordinations, past several times he asked and I was busy, until I rubber-band at the top:

I swipe out and left and peck my Uber app, scheduling in advance sometimes saves me a few dollars, but I’m in “Uber jail,” I heard someone call it that, so I take the goddamn selfie to verify I’m masked up for my ride eight hours from now, cursing whichever of R’s former teammates is doing well at Uber. My officemates probably think I’m some closet hashtag-grindset influencer now.

Which reminds me. Later at home, I scoop out my banish pile from the back corner of my closet and sift through it, until I find an itty-bitty black shirtdress, about two-hundred dollars’ worth of polyester and markup:

Models, especially, were considered so beautiful that they could wear a basic dress out and still be considered top quality.

During summer the dress was my go-to for first dates, until I almost had to tear myself out of it after spending ten claustrophobic minutes tangled up in this sort of Mobius loop-fold it does at the waist. But it’s short, so short they don’t even bother with the -dress. And I’m tall enough people will argue with me about what sports I played in high school, so the combo should turn heads.

Or rather, not V’s. I grab a fuzzy, floral Jacquard coat/​shaw/​robe thing I just bought, I can wrap it around me for instant modesty. And some heels, and a purse with a little puffball charm I hope is J.Crew enough to not attract any thieving hands. As I throw things together I nurse a shot of whiskey with my name on it—my real name, if it does exist Partygirl Whiskey is de facto cheap and nasty—for good luck, the bottle is a holdover from a past adventure with a happy ending.

…and ride’s here—lock door down stairs hop in car shut door pull down dress pull up mask, check phone. R, What’s your ETA?. I opt not to be the sort who screenshots Uber and hits send, as if it’s more utilitarian that way. The sort that can lack social skills sometimes and just end up being unpleasant. 11:28! Ok I’m outside wearing a blue hoodie. I stuff my phone back in my purse and watch the Manhattan scaffolding flash by.

Twenty-three twenty-eight, 58th and Madison. Prompt punctual partygoer. Gawks from two men leaning in a recessed doorway nearby as my feet hit the pavement. This time, the girl understood the assignment. Four feet of legs high-heels-to-hips amble their way towards a nightclub. It’s misting ambiently, such that umbrellas are beside the point. A blue hoodie under LAVO’s bluer awning. He’s younger than I expected, from photos. Shorter. ‘Hey.’

A look. ‘Hey,’ R says, ‘glad you made it.’

‘Yeah. Glad we could meet finally.’

‘Yeah, sorry about the other night, I had to handle something that came up. How was it?’

Maybe his...associates?...didn’t say anything? ‘Oh, no worries. It was good! …different. Kind of what I was expecting from the book, at least…some parts.’

‘Oh, right, that. I remember I read something about that when it came out. There’s...like, about clubbing…there’s not really that much to it?...though? Like, not enough for a whole book.’

‘Yeah, it’s a little repetitive, it could’ve worked as like, a long New Yorker article, if it focused more on the stories of people. But it was a sociology book, and academics really get off on voyeurism. So it probably worked for her audience.’

So you’re a writer, too?’

Ha. ‘No. Well sometimes, but not things like…this. Like, I work in fashion, on the tech side of things at a startup in the industry an-’

‘And you model, too? You could model, you definitely look like one. Yeah, you said you don’t model, though?’

‘I, just… …it never really came up...never got into it. You?’

‘Yeah, I do some. I’m talking with an agency in Brazil, to do some work there. I don’t know though…I feel like there’s a lot of money in modeling, but not really for the models, you know?’

‘Definitely. You’re Brazilian?’

Laughs. ‘No, I’m not, but that’s what people think all the time, when they’re trying to guess my ethnicity.’

‘Me too! I get that I’m German a lot. Or Russian. I had a guy stop me on the High Line the other day, insisting, like, he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I was like, “Sorry, comrade, lemme through.” ’

‘Yeah, you look like you could be either of those…hmm. If I were guessing, I’d say you look Croatian, though, you could be.’

That’s a new pin on my map. ‘Wow. Really? I didn’t know they had a look like that, were that distinctive…ha, I’m like, white bread from Texas...“Croatian”…’

‘Now guess me, for real.’

‘…Columbian? Maybe?’

‘Nah, but I get that all the time. I’m Indian.’

‘Oh…hence the robotics.’

Oooohohhh…oh my god, I forgot we talked about that, I haven’t told anyone since high school! Yeah, we used to go to competitions, and we’d get killed by these Brazilian and the Korean teams...actually I was going to school for engineering at CUNY, until I dropped out, earlier this year.’

If you can’t beat ‘em, model underwear for ’em. ‘So now you’re promoting? And modeling?’

‘No, we just started that over the summer. You should’ve run with us then, it was warmer, we had some fun nights. Modeling, yeah, but I also do some marketing for clubs and restaurants here. Like, …’

He pauses and pushes his hood back, then a beat later:

‘…there’s this club named Etiquette, you should go sometime with me. They offered me six figures for a full-time position actually, but I would need to give up my other clients. But I still run all their social for them. Helping clubs and other places get their accounts verified has been a big thing for me, by getting them references in the news and things like that.’

Oh, no way, hey get me verified too! Wall Street Journal covered an app I made a few months ago!’

Shit. ‘Thaaaat’s… impressive.’ A second genuine reaction from R, but I wish I hadn’t—I wish I said literally anything else. Now I’m either lying, and that’s just a strange thing to lie about, or lying about something else. Because, what girl, who could model, but doesn’t, picks up that kind of accolade, only to casually brag about it to a promoter with whom she initiated contact, on her second night of clubbing, ever.

‘Is that what you went to school for?’

‘Yeah, at NYU, I’m still there. Started off as a lit major, but I slowly dabbled my way towards computer science things.’

‘Oh, nice, my mom was going to the dentistry school there, before I was born. But she dropped out because my dad got her pregnant. And then I came along, nine months later.’

The last sentence he says with Pop! Goes the weasel affect. But six figures, out of two consecutive dropouts—not the norm. It’s surreal, how much R is like some character a neural network would’ve regurgitated had you fed it Very Important People’s depictions of promoters:

The majority of them come from lower-middle- and middle-class backgrounds, yet they earn six figures, drink high-priced champagne, and share social space with the superrich. Given the limits to class mobility in the United States, this is a remarkable accomplishment.

‘Hey,’ R greets V as he walks up to us.

‘Hey,’ a furtive glance my direction, but it doesn’t seem like it’s for R’s benefit. I keep my own Hey behind my teeth. Charming individuals are like pulsars, you notice this whenever you find yourself perpendicular to one’s pole. But there’s no denying the beacon draws people in:

Of the thirty-nine male promoters I interviewed, only one sought out the job on his own initiative. Rather, the job had a way of finding them. It’s easy to see why: they are charming men, flirtatious, stylish, and persistent…‘The first line, the opener, is so important, because [the girls] gonna know you’re a promoter. You have to overcome that and make them feel comfortable, make them laugh…You have to establish the relationship.’

Otherwise, sans this relationship, what a promoter does, running the girls, it’s nakedly exploitative:

It would be too easy to say that promoters and clubs exploit girls for monetary gain; we would miss a crucial insight into how relations of exploitation operate. In short, promoters show us that exploitation works best when it feels good.

Or worse, blatantly transactional:

When I asked a club owner why he doesn’t just pay girls directly to attend his club, he told me, ‘That would ruin the fun.’

Fun is putting it loadbearingly. As is typical, the dignity and efficiency of an individual are at odds with one another. Status…

…cannot be bought outright without, of course, a loss of status. VIP clubs have to construct the potlatch in a way that suspends the deliberateness of status-seeking, primarily by making it fun and seemingly spontaneous. Clubs are spaces designed to sublimate people’s criticism of clients’ wasteful displays and refashion them as play.

Of course, ambiguous transactions also give more surface area to least-worst interpretations:

Clubs sell marked-up bottles of alcohol that usually result in the presence of models, typically brought there by promoters or arranged by the club managers who ensure clients are surrounded by beautiful women. Paying for women outright is stigmatized, but there is nothing wrong with paying for drinks. By bundling expensive bottles with beautiful girls, clients get the illusion of authentic company with girls.

Thus if we take Occam’s Razor to it, what we’re supposed to find, is not the system apparatusing out parcels of status like they’re widgets, but the individual manifesting it, overflowing with his own élan vital, and no one’s the wiser:

Most people, including Veblen, imagined ostentation was an inherent trait of the rich. I found, however, that it takes considerable coordinated effort to mobilize people into what looks like the spontaneous waste of money.

And this demographic, the club-going sort, they’re not always the BYOG type…

For ‘someone like me’—not for himself personally, [the client] clarified—who ‘went to MIT,’ he began. ‘You’ve seen the girls on that campus? Okay, so you know what I mean. In finance, these guys come to New York after four years of being in schools like this, and they start working at Goldman Sachs making tons of money, and they can go out and get bottle service and you get to hang out with models. So the club scene is basically giving them something that was never attainable for them.’

…but that’s the stone in the soup, so to speak, the hordes-of-women-like-me part. Therefore:

The tables inside a VIP club are carefully curated and controlled. Even though this scene looks like the life of the party, it is the outcome of tremendous backstage labors—the unseen work that makes conspicuous consumption possible.

Promoters’ tremendous backstage labors, that is. Of course, nothing is stopping clubs from putting promoters out of their jobs by holding their own casting calls, but the obvious:

Hiring a broker is a common means of obfuscating a stigmatized exchange...Clubs do not want to hire girls directly because it moves them out of the business of nightlife and into the business of brothels. The broker alleviates this stigma, but then he bears the moral burden of the suspicious transaction.

R is talking with M, who just appeared at some point, I guess:

‘Two girls tonight are underage.’

‘Ok, we’ll just be careful and see how things go.’

We all get in line now, me, R, M, V, and fiveish other girls. None four-out-of-fours, objectively. R introduces a pair to me, I cran my neck down at them. They’re French, and visiting the city for the first time, I learn. He has a huge count of Instagram followers, which I assume is his primary avenue of recruitment.

…such a person ‘need have no special talents or wisdom to fulfill his function…his main qualification is that he is public…’

Perhaps Etiquette offered him a-dollar-per. R, and M and V, they all seem a generation younger than the promoters Mears followed during her research, greener, their identities less wrapped up in their careers. Less lengthy lengths they’re willing to go for their livelihoods. Like, they would never start a model apartment, no matter how much it might expedite the exploitation:

Promoters could make serious money with a model apartment, which guaranteed a reliable quantity of high-quality girls at their tables every night…[The] apartment required a hefty deposit of $50,000, but within six months, Vanna said, they had already made it back. Girls living there were required to go out at least four nights a week with them between Monday and Saturday, for a minimum of three hours, from 12:00 to 3:00 a.m.

V maybe would, just for the power trip that must come along with being a shady, capricious landlord. But entire eons have come and gone within the realm of social media in the decade that’s elapsed since Mears’s fieldwork took place. Why go cruising around in your Porsche, flagging down the errant pretty pedestrian, when you could just be dming away in your jammies?

Have social media aptitude, will travel. Like twenty-two-year-old R’s sixer job offer. Whether the goods you’re moving are Hims or hers, makes no difference. The promoter proper is obsolete to them, a relic with a decadence we ascribe to all mechanical turks of bygone eras, like clockwinders or pinsetters. Humans in the loop. Below the API, before the API. This is the irony of the promoter who specializes as such: what it takes, truly doing the job with verve, is to mask your implementation details so well, that you yourself can no longer discern the seams:

How one acquires social capital has an effect on the perceived legitimacy of its holder...Interactive services are typically characterized by clear asymmetries...But the promoter, in an effort to craft an “authentic” consumption experience, cultivates and performs a relationship of equality with clients...They believe [they can] convert their connections into profit—in part because they see their job not as conducting a service relationship, but as leisure time spent with friends.

The book’s emotional peak is a brutally understated few pages of For sale: glittering deals, never materialized:

Every night it seemed [Dre] spun a different tale about his music career just about to blow up, his hip-hop album about to drop, his car company, or his import company. “...All the people that make money in this world, it’s a question of relationships. It doesn’t happen any other way. No other way. You introduce them and you take your cut…”

Dre’s partner was supposedly negotiating in Europe to sign a contract to secure their broker’s fee, and, rather ambiguously, Dre spoke of his impending “30 percent for the next ten fifteen twenty years. I just got the text message.” He quickly added, “This is one of twenty deals.” Ostensibly, as Dre told it, because he brought the girls to help make the business dinner a success, he was to be paid a cut from the deal. When asked about how the telecommunications coverage would expand from the Balkans and to which parts of Europe, Dre did not know the details; he’d have to check with his partners. The deal never materialized.

And after steeping myself in the scene for a little while, Very Important People reads less like (stern dustjacket voice) a timely sociological treatment of the troubling realities behind moneyed leisure, and more like a poignant chronicle-of-the-plight-of an everyman chewed up and spat out by an idiosyncratic service sector job. Born too late throw debaucherous potlatches, born to early to wirehead it with our sexbots, the role of a promoter was spun up by neoliberalism as a scapegoat, whose sacrifice would shoo away the tsks of those self-appointed policemen of inconvenient social mores we had to violate in order to have our fun.

They had a good run, from the mid-nineties to the late-tens. A lot of things did. Shoulder pad-free blazers. The end of history. I whip out my umbrella, it’s misting heavier now, heavy enough to obey gravity. ‘Now you take that out?’ from R, the nonlinearities of ambient moisture would be lost on him and his crew cut. A minute later though, I whip it back in, we’re going inside. Steep stairs, high heels, lots of both. Is there some regulation on the books that these places can’t be on the ground floor, or is it just to watch us giraffes teeter? A coatcheck window runs the length of the landing’s right-side wall. I guess I could shed this rug. I slip out, ball it up, and hold it out to the attendant, ‘This,’ I say.

Five dollars.’


Coatcheck is five dollars.’

I have to pay for something? Here? This wasn’t in the book I mutter as I open my purse, open my billfold. Two dollars, in ones.

‘Venmo?’ She hints at me, in a helpfully exasperated tone. ‘Oh.’

Phone out, Venmo open, she recites the club’s handle, I type it in, tap to send my five, Declined. Shit. Months ago my purse was stolen, and my cards, still stubbing my toe on these things, I explain this all as my eyes dart between my left hand, feeling around the insides of my billfold for my debit card, and my right thumb bouncing around submenus, minutes have passed now, How undignified of you to nickel and dime your royals li-

I freeze as I feel a hand squeeze my left shoulder tightly, fingers-under-your-scapular-spine sensation, and watch as a different hand passes the attendant a bill.


‘It’s good,’ R says. See, he gets to write it off.

The attendant slides over an orange stub with the club’s logo and the number 06117 printed on it in black ink. I try to Ramanujan-taxicab it on the spot, 06117,06117, nothing, can’t even intuit if it’s prim-

‘Take a picture of it.’


‘Take a picture of it,’ offers the attendant at me, helpfully, again, ‘with your phone. In case you lose it.’


I finally I turn around from the coatcheck window, and pretend I’m oblivious to the queue that’s formed behind me as we walk into the club proper, R guiding me by the forearm. LAVO is much cozier than TAO; the dance floor is sunken, too, but less subterranean cavern, more 70s den. We push through the throngs of partiers to our table. After a few introductions to people already around the table, R offers me a drink.

Just tequila, please.’ ‘Just tequila?’ ‘Just tequila.’

He pours. He hands it to me. ‘No wait, ice. Too.’

Almost as soon as it’s begun, the evening wears on. After a few sips, gregarious me tries to introduce myself to a newcomer on my right:

‘Hi!’ ‘Hi!’

I hear ‘Where are you from?,’ so I answer her, ‘I’m from Texas!’

Happy birthday!!’

R tries to include me in some shot-taking ritual. I gulp down the vodka he hands me, bleh, but veer out of range before he can capture me in an Insta story he’s filming. M asks, ‘Do you want me to take your purse?,’ and against my better judgement…

Some promoters checked girls’ coats or put their handbags inside discreet drawers within the same banquette sofas upon which girls would end up dancing later in the night. This made collecting one’s belongings to leave without the promoters’ help rather difficult; promoters were likely to be slow and unhelpful getting girls’ coats and handbags much before 3 a.m…

…‘Wait, one sec!’ I say, and pound a few digits into my calculator app before I pass it to him. Our group occupies the table I’m standing at, and another to the right. Left is a table of youngish finance guys, and to the right of our second table is a pair of older men, fifties probably, surrounded by young women they didn’t know before tonight. I’m sort of wedged into a weird spot, facing away from the dance floor, facing people at our table facing towards the dance floor. Most eyeballs in the room are behind me, therefore most eyeballs in the room are on me. I’m highly sensitive, this way. Not in the socioemotional sense; you call me names to my face, doesn’t phase. I grew up an ugly duckling—really—so I’m immune.

No, it’s some ancient tripwire strung taut, hair-triggered by the iota-est inkling of inbound confrontation; it’s indifferent to those already happening. A former lover, his massages would find more knots than not, and he would call my body an “early warning radar,” so tightly wound, as if to sense some expected threat that will only send me winding tighter. It’s because of this, this sort of precoiling, that I can’t bear the prospect of being seen in this body without some airtight alibi. That’s exactly how it feels, from the inside. The opposite of embodiment is still embodiment. Where it comes from, search me. The other night at TAO, beneath the sensory overload and feeling like I just fell through the looking glass, was this.

And here, now. My little spandrel state of petrified modesty. Don’t look me in the eye, I’ll turn to stone. A modeling career was never in the cards for me, What do I do with my hands? They won’t stop hiding my face. I had to ctrl+f in at least a dozen places while editing as I discovered I slipped up nearly every time typing out good civilian as model citizen. That’s me, a model citizen—‘A girl who fits the description of model but is not really a model. Like, she has the “up,” but she’s still waiting on the “-glow.” Girl has a fucking license to kill, with her looks, but she’s fucking vegetarian. Plays dead fish too much because she can get away with it. It’s just the truth, she don’t know she’s beautiful.

You know I’m serious, linking to that. Vibe, energy, chutzpah, moxie, that’s the fifth metric a girl needs to ace, but that’s a metis you can’t hope to measure, and thank god promoters see like a state in this regard, not that it helped me, just an innocent civilian nerdsniped into this wretched Valhalla. Sucked through the looking glass, ind–

‘Everyone’s asking us where we found our model!’


R shouts again, for my benefit only, ‘Everybody is asking us where we got our model!’ I suppose my usual dead-fishness was transmuted into what probably came off as some ethereal detachment, an arresting bitch face. ‘Really?’ Something sparks in me. Collapse the superimposition, tell me what I already know, so that it means something to me.

‘Get up here, you’re our prettiest girl!’ M bends down and shouts into my ear a minute or two later, grabbing my wrists to help me up onto the booth, and then the back of the booth. Now I’m ten feet tall. My muscles relax, just enough for them to become slightly entangled with the music pulsating through the room. A song I actually know comes on: Just a a-pol-lo-linian gi-rl…livin’ in a dio-nes-ian wo-o-orld.

From my newfound perch I play a game of Mook or Mogul, looking around the room, scoping out the people who are actually paying to be here and bucketing them into either of the client categories Very Important People identifies:

Duke, a former club owner and now a real estate magnate in downtown New York, calls these people mooks: “You know, a mook. Someone who doesn’t know what’s going on … It’s the dentists that come in and buy the tables, thinking they’re in the company of the cool people, and the beautiful people.”

Mook is often used interchangeably with lettuce, the carb-free term for bread-and-butter:

‘It’s like making a salad,’ continued the club owner. ‘What’s the most important ingredient, the biggest ingredient in a salad? Lettuce. That’s our affluent New Yorkers, guys with small bills of three to five thousand…’ [They are] your run-of-the-mill banker, tech developer, or other upper-class professional with a disposable income. While on the lower end of importance compared to whales and celebrities, they are central to the VIP scene; in fact, they bankroll it.

Whales lie at the other end of this continuum:

Most valuable in this hierarchy of men is the whale, a term you might know from casinos and speculative finance. Whales can drop huge sums of money from their vast riches, sometimes over a hundred thousand dollars in a single night. Their reputation is legendary in nightlife. The biggest whale at the time of my fieldwork was a Malaysian financier known as Jho Low…

…and a few pages detailing Low’s exploits, which rekindled my ire over the world’s largest experiment with liquid reserves of cash coming up a complete bust, because that lucky yokel possessed an imagination inversely proportional to his hoardings.

Of course, I saw a few celebrities too, but none who clashed with the context. Joe Jonas. Fetty Wrap. I don’t see any looking out over the crowd at LAVO, nor many whale-looking types. At one point I notice both the older men a few tables over raise their glasses at me. I gamley reciprocate, hopefully with enough gamely that they’re bowled over by how politely uninterested I am. They look like, exactly like the mobster caricatures in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Bridge and tunnel, I label them, I’ve never used that term before. Feels uncouth. Me, I’m more South of West 110th & East 96th. Call me that to my face, I don’t care.

And while my opinion carries about as much weight here as I do, this place doesn’t seem very hip. I used to work in the Tunnel, of American Psycho nightclub-scene fame, and the ancient spirits of the night were no doubt laughing at me and calling me bridge and tunnel as I scurried across their hallowed ground from La Colombe to go hole up in my little startup office. I felt cooler there than here.

Cool. If you can bottle it up, it’s not real. You can’t bottle up the other side of the pillow, for instance. You know something’s become nothing, if you can bottle it up, someone said that once, and people have been bottling it up ever since. Such is life, such is nightlife:

The cool people don’t stay in one place for long, and club owners can both spend and earn a lot of money in pursuit of them. Each club follows a similar life cycle. First it attracts high-status guests and excludes everyone else. Over time, as the VIPs gravitate to other, newer clubs in the city, the club opens its doors to the lower-status masses and the crowd gets less exclusive. ‘If you put it in New York terms,’ explained a banker and club regular, ‘It just gets a lot more bridge and tunnel. They’re just happy to be there.’

The very idea hottest place in town seems a little outmoded these days, in a post-Covid, ghost-kitchened world. You know cool isn’t cool anymore when one of the more recent Schelling points for coolest place in town was somewhere you could hear everyone and see no one.

I’ve had enough, of this and to drink. Other-side-of-the-pillow sounds dreamy. I hop down, boothback-booth, booth-floor, and refill a last glass myself for a change. Over the next ten minutes M offers me a blunt, asks to take a selfie with me, and shows me a middleschoolish picture of him holding a koala bear. ‘No, thanks.’ ‘No, thanks.’ ‘Wow, you look so…proud?…’ R isn’t anywhere. My birthday well-wisher isn’t anywhere. Bridge and his pal, Tunnel, are still over there, do they even charge tolls after midnight?

How ‘bout I’ll hit and then blow the smoke into your mouth?’

I discover it’s wild, really!, how much I have in common with another girl in a group nearby who’re making like they’re making like they’re about to leave, they all sort of cock their heads at their phones in quick succession. And the script is just Yes, and: ‘Oh, wow, my brother went to Fordham for law school!’ I break the news to M, I mean, they’re my ride or die, what can you do.

‘You have NO Instagram?’ he yells into my ear as he leans over while I’m up to my shoulder socket blindly casting about the boothback cubby for my purse. Sleight of hand, shmeight of hand, they all just feed into some giant hopper under the dance floor. ‘Yeah, my name was taken already, not gonna add random numbers to it like I’m some band from the aughts.’ Finally, I feel a shaggy golfball charm and extract my purse like it’s a claw-game prize. ‘Someone like yo-’

‘“Someone like me” should what, have an Instagram, like it’s some mechanical cause-effect sequence, like “You’re hot, so you then have an Insta” is the same thing as some bowling ball rolling across the room and bumping into a pool cue which falls across the kitchen table and hits little spoon catapults that launch a bunch of marbles off to god knows where? “Someone like me,” who can point to yearlong gaps where not even a single photo of me exists, like I just thought living as dark matter for a while would be so indie or something? “Someone like me,” someone like me who was pulled out of eighth-grade algebra class to a meeting with the vice principle and school counselor and to–’

…and he’s paying no attention whatsoever, he’s been waiting for me to finish my spiel, and passes me his phone wordlessly, keyboard up, cursor blinking in the First Name field. I tap my out number and hand it back to him, and feel a buzz a few seconds later from inside my purse. Fieldwork, I think to myself in blocky light-gray typography, 3D-rendered on a black background and rotating slightly, with little sparkles glittering off.

Meanwhile, my squad’s Uber is here. We say goodbyes and skirt along the tables until we reach the steps leading up out of the sunken-den dance floor. I peel off as we pass the coatcheck window. Did none of them- Same attendant. Still asks to see my ticket. 06117. I pass it to her, giddy with numberphilia, ‘It’s not prime. I know, it totally looks like it though. It’s also a zipcode in Conn-’

‘Everything good?’

I turn around. V. ‘Yeah,’ no, what do I have to do to earn my fucking facial at one of these things, get up on the tables an- ‘just headed home.’ I lack social skills sometimes and just end up being unpleasant, like when I shove my iPhone blazing a light-mode Uber app in his face in the darkened club, as if any point needed bolstering in a club.

Zero dark-thirty, 58th and Madison. Passive piscine partyleaver. Four feet of legs high-heels-to-hips stumble away from a nightclub. Dead fish walking. It’s no longer misting, such that umbrellas are beside the point. A Gray Honda Sienna, driven by someone named Pei—cross street hop in car shut door pull down dress pull up mask, check phone. I scroll past Maybe M’s message from earlier, scroll back, open it:

Hmm. 💬

(Part (iii) is published next Friday.)